Bradford nurses who have become West Yorkshire Police `specials'Across the Bradford district the number of people with mental health issues being held in police cells inappropriately has significantly fallen since Trust nurses have been trained as police specials to go out on patrol.

Nurses are involved in street triage, hospital liaison and attend calls in the community linked to mental health as part of the Trust’s 24-hour First Response mental health crisis service.

Many incidents the police are called out to have some sort of mental health related issue; people in distress often call 999 when it may not be a police matter.  The scheme aims to ensure people get the right help at the first point of contact and has achieved a significant reduction in Section 136 Mental Health Act police detentions. This means that if police attend an incident, they have the powers to take that person to a place of safety under the Act.  The place of safety could be a police interview room, hospital or a specialist 136 suite in the Bradford district.

The project is the first of its kind in the country and gives nursing staff the same powers as regular officers to work on a variety of police duties following police training in July 2016 that was actively supported by the Trust.  The work is part of the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership.

The Trust embarked on the initiative with West Yorkshire Police to make better use of combined skillsets, to enable police and nurses to work collaboratively in the community to ensure people are given safe and appropriate care, instead of being taken into custody and detained in police cells.

Nurses combine their mental health expertise and policing skills to look after vulnerable people in the most dignified way. These people may be experiencing a mental health crisis and are confused and upset so this has helped to prevent unnecessary arrests and has reduced demand on the police as nurses can provide mental health assessments and have access to medical records at the scene.

Nurses in police control rooms, where 999 calls are answered, sit with the hub commanders monitoring calls and offering advice. They make real-time decisions and signpost people, who ring up where mental health is a factor, to the right support at an earlier stage.  By having access to both clinical records and police systems, nurses are able to make accurate assessments of where people are best supported during a crisis.

This has led to a 90 per cent reduction in the number of people being detained in police cells where more appropriate signposting and support are available.  The scheme also avoids criminalising people in the community that are in crisis and need clinical intervention and social support, rather than police intervention. The programme is about supporting people at the earliest opportunity to prevent problems, rather than allowing them to escalate.

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